ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico forensic investigators announced Thursday that a highly decomposed body found at a desert compound in New Mexico has been identified as a missing Georgia boy whose father is accused of kidnapping him and performing purification rituals on the severely disabled child.
Authorities believe the boy, Abdul-ghani died in February, when he was 3 and buried in an underground tunnel at makeshift compound in northern New Mexico. He had been reported missing in December from Jonesboro, Georgia, near Atlanta.
The New Mexico Office of the Medical Examiner said in a statement that it could not identify the cause of Abdul-ghani’s death because his body was found in advanced stage of decomposition.
The father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, was among five people arrested on suspicion of child abuse at compound near the Colorado state line, where authorities say 11 hungry children were found living in filth.
Prosecutors seeking to keep Sarij Ibn Wahhaj behind bars said in court on Monday that he had been training some children at the compound to carry out attacks on an anti-government mission that might include schools.
An FBI agent, citing interviews with two children from the compound, said Abdul-ghani died as relatives performed a ritual on the boy to cast out demonic spirits while reading from the Quran.
State District Court Judge Sarah Backus on Monday said the evidence provided by prosecutors was troubling but did not indicate any clear threat to public safety from the defendants, who have no criminal records.
She cleared the way for the release of four defendants on terms of house arrest that would include ankle monitors, while Siraj Ibn Wahhaj would remain jailed because of the arrest warrant. One defendant, originally from Haiti, has been transferred to the custody of federal immigration authorities.
None had been released as of Thursday amid safety concerns, in part stemming from threats of violence against Judge Backus.